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Cycling and Transport Policy in NSW

Cycling and Transport Policy in NSW

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper 08/2010 by Daniel Montoya

This briefing paper presents an overview of the contemporary debate on cycling. It summarises the transport issues facing NSW, presents an account of the state of cycling in NSW and in Sydney in particular, and compares cycling in Sydney with the other Australian capital cities and with selected international cities.

Cycling in transport policy: overview

Over the last ten years, several policies at all three levels of government have shaped cycling in NSW. The Australian National Cycling Strategy 2005-2010 was released by the Commonwealth Government in 2005 and is now due for review. NSW released its new bike plan in May 2010: the New South Wales BikePlan. The City of Sydney is one of the most pro-active councils in respect to cycling, and has a comprehensive bike plan: Cycle Strategy and Action Plan 2007-2017. Other relevant transport policies include: the Metropolitan Transport Plan: Connecting the City of Cities (NSW); the NSW State Plan; and Sustainable Sydney 2030 (City of Sydney). [2.0]

Transport issues facing NSW

Transport issues faced by Sydney include: congestion; greenhouse gas emissions; air quality; energy consumption; and travel times. The State of the Environment 2009 found all transport indicators to be in poor or moderate condition. Many of the economic, social and environmental costs of these transport issues are projected to increase in the coming years. This raises the question – to what extent can cycling contribute to addressing transport issues in NSW? [3.0]

The costs and benefits of cycling

Research on the costs and benefits of cycling has increased markedly in recent years. This research has identified transport, environmental, economic, social and health benefits that may arise from increased levels of cycling. Cost-benefit analyses have also been conducted on cycling infrastructure projects around the world. Cost-benefit ratios for these projects range from 1.5:1 to 20:1. [4.1]

The factors that influence cycling uptake

Rates of cycling are affected by many factors. These include: cycling skills; topography; climate; distance; social norms; bike infrastructure; safety; land use mix; and accessibility and affordability of other forms of transport. Policy therefore needs to address multiple factors in order to increase cycling adoption. [4.2]

NSW and Sydney cycling statistics

More bikes than cars were sold per year in Australia between 2001 and 2008. Although 42% of Sydney households owned at least 1 bicycle in 2005, only 0.7% of people cycled to work. Despite an increase of 0.6% in the number of trips to work undertaken by bike between 2001 and 2009, the overall share of cycling for all trips to work has remained roughly constant. The number of trips to work by bike varies considerably between local government areas. 2.47% of Marrickville LGA residents cycle to work, whereas only 0.38% of Canterbury LGA residents cycle to work. Of all trips by bike, recreation is the most frequent purpose, and the number of recreational events has increased in recent years. Cycling fatalities and injuries have remained relatively constant between 2000 and 2008. [5.0]

Cycling in NSW: the administrative framework

Each level of government has a role in developing and maintaining cycling infrastructure and policy. In concert with State and Local Governments, the Commonwealth sets transport objectives, sets infrastructure objectives, and provides funding. The NSW BikePlan guides NSW Government investment in cycling infrastructure. The BikePlan allocates lead responsibility to seven administrative bodies, whilst several other bodies are more peripherally involved. A ten year vision has been set: to establish a Metro Sydney Bike Network that links major centres and creates a strategic cycle network in inner Sydney; and invest in cycleways in regional NSW and cities like Newcastle and Wollongong. Together with the NSW Government, local councils have a leading role in the provision of cycling infrastructure in NSW. Each local council makes its own policy and investment decisions regarding cycling infrastructure. [6.1, 6.2 and 6.3]

Comparing Sydney with other Australian capital cities

In 2006, of all Australian capital cities, Sydney had the lowest percentage of trips to work by bike and the lowest percentage of the population who were regular cyclists. Aside from Darwin, Sydney also had the lowest annual growth in the number of people cycling to work. A more detailed comparison with Melbourne reveals that Melbourne has: twice the amount of journey-to-work cycling; three times the rate of growth in cycling; proportionally more cycling for commuting purposes; better cycling advocacy; and spends roughly three times more per capita on cycling. These differences can be partially explained by Melbourne's more suitable topography and climate. [7.0]

Comparing Sydney with selected international cities

Commuter cycling is much higher in some European countries than in Australia: for example, an average of 27%, 19% and 10% respectively of commuters in Holland, Denmark and Germany cycle to work. In contrast, only 0.7% of commuters in Sydney cycle to work. Much of this can be explained by significant differences in expenditure on cycling, cycle-friendly policies and infrastructure, and higher government commitment to cycling. Sydney has lower levels of cycling than San Francisco, arguably a city of comparable topography. With roughly double the amount of investment per capita, San Francisco has demonstrated that cycling levels can be increased with an appropriate mix of investment, government commitment and policy options. [8.0]

Policy recommendations and case study findings

Many policy recommendations are found in the relevant literature and case studies. These recommendations can be grouped into several categories, including: cycle-specific planning; bike schemes; information, campaigns and events; safer road layout; restrictions on car use; education; and integration with public transport. [9.0]